Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

Lots of public noise about the new book American Dirt.  Mostly seems centered on the author not being an authentic voice for the places and people she wrote about.  This is a common complaint when someone of another background/race/ethnicity/or whatever writes about a certain group of people.  How can you know anything about being _____________, when you’re not?  Well, of course, if you’re writing a fiction book you can just make shit up, so what if I’m not authentic enough for you; I don’t have to be.  If you could only write fiction about what you had a personal experience with, there would be no science fiction books and probably a lot fewer romance novels.

The complaint I saw the most about American Dirt, which also had the most meaning to me, was that the book was full of stereotypes and did not reflect accurately the locations of the story.  Now, that has meaning.  But that sounds like a “bad book”—there’s lots of those; why the hub-bub?

Apparently the author received a huge advance (seven figures) with extensive pre-publishing marketing.  Some of the marketing was in poor taste at the very least and potentially offensive.  On top of that Oprah selected the book for her book club.  What this is about is a relatively unknown author receiving amazing money and hype for some reason—that’s enough to piss off a lot of people in the industry.

I haven’t read the book so don’t know if it is any good or not.  Even if I did read it, all I could say would be whether I liked it or not.  Some of the criticism sounds valid; but a lot sounds like jealousy. 

A very recent reader review of Santa Fe Mojo said, “It’s not a deep thought provoking book, but really entertaining.”  Thank you Mr. Reader.  Plus, it was a five-star review. 

I think there has been a trend for some time that books need to be of substance (and not just entertaining).  Let me readily admit that I write books to be entertaining.  That is my goal; my entire focus.  If you find deep meaning, or hidden insight; that’s wonderful, but that will have more to do with you, the reader, than me, the writer. 

American Dirt might also be entertaining, but it was marketed as something else.  It was a serious book that had more meaning than just story telling.  It was insightful, inspiring, important.  With that foundation, the criticism feels more appropriate.  It is a fictional book with attitude.  You better have your act together on all fronts if you expect no criticism with that sort of approach.

If I write a reasonably entertaining murder mystery for no reason but to provide you with some (cheap) entertainment, the bar of approval is set pretty low.  If I declared this is the most amazing detective story every written with insight into the inner workings of a sex-starved, Sherlock Holmes level genius and delivers the best surprise ending of any book written in the last five-hundred years—the likely criticism will be vicious (or humorous).

Ms. Cummins, the author of American Dirt, had written three other books; all of those appeared to be based on her life in some way.  Then she wrote a book about a Mexican woman making a treacherous journey with her child across Mexico to the United States—she isn’t Latino and evidently has little experience with Mexico.  You wonder why she chose that subject?  Trendy?  Marketability of a struggling immigrant story?

Most of my wild ideas for books get shot down by me.  Although I’m still struggling with Doctor Hightower which involves a very, very old man who appears middle age.  Even with that unusual premise, I placed the story in Denver so I was at least familiar with the story locale. 

I would be the last person who would want to criticize the approach of Ms. Cummins, after all she got a million dollar plus advance.  She’s a genius!  And all of the controversy and ugly words directed at her and her book will no doubt boost sales and once again prove the worth of publicity– whether it’s good or bad. 

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I would imagine Ms. Cummins doesn’t have to worry about scheduling ads for her book, but I do.  The ad plan is usually about two months out.  While I was working on my ad plans, I had reason to go to each book’s page on Amazon.  The description that appears on each page, which some people say is one of the major elements that can contribute to increased sales (although I’m not completely sure about that), had changed.  The description for several e-book versions had reverted back to an older version.  Now, of course, the new version was by far the best and this obviously was tragic news.  (Okay, maybe more annoying than tragic).

Still not sure why that happened.  The Amazon system that supports both buyers and vendors must be a nightmare to maintain and keep from blowing up; but sometimes it seems like the simplest things go wrong with no explanation.  Now, there’s something else to add to my list of things to check on a regular basis.

I mention this in case you visited one of my Amazon pages and didn’t buy the book because you didn’t like the description, you should go back; the new description is fantastic and no doubt you will want to buy the book, or at least admire the new book description.  Thanks in advance.

Thanks for being a reader!

Books/Writing/Publishing Trends 2020

The future of something?

Beginning a new year leads to thinking about what is happening on many different fronts.  For me, of course, I’m always looking at trends in books and publishing.  While I am curious this really doesn’t affect me all that much, but still feels like something I should pay attention too.  The following trends come from an article by Scott Mathews which appeared in The Independent Publishers Magazine.  The article below has been edited for length, click for the full article.

Some of this I agree with, some maybe not so much.  Still interesting.

Trend #1 Print Books are still top of the pile

This should grab your attention because surely the natural progression would be e-books taking over the throne? Not so. Well, not yet. People apparently still love to hold a real book in their hands. For this, and various other reasons, e-books have shown a decline.

Does this mean the age demographic is now 30+ for print and under that for digital? No. This is where it gets somewhat confusing. Millennials are just as likely to go for print, bucking that sector’s trend of digital-only.

Trend #2 E-books are dead, long live e-books!

Having said what needs to be said in Tip#1, it goes without saying that e-books are still a vital part of people’s lives. Industry insiders have dissected the above trend, and all are cognizant that in terms of time and legacy, e-books are still relatively young and playing catch-up to print.

It is inevitable that the digital book will have many more peaks and valleys than print, although both are grappling with new ideas and follow-throughs. E-book trends are more uncertain as the world in which they exist is more volatile and iridescent. It’s a kind of nebulous line that makes it not as easy to define, but just as urgent to detect and develop.

Trend #3 Diversity is the new dynamic

If authors, and subsequently publishers, do not grasp diversity with both hands, they will fall behind in sales. This is a clear-and-cut fact. Diversity in the form of multicultural voices and multigender voices are the norm, and the must-have. This reflects the diversity that is alive and expanding everywhere in America.

Trend#4 Bigger demand for services

Everyone wants a book or a well-written assignment, and everyone thinks they can write. However, they’ve quickly discovered that writing is in the gift and the blood and it’s not as easy as thought.

Would-be authors and students turn to services like ghost-writers and writing agencies in droves to get the work done properly. Two such services experiencing a surge in demand are Xpertwriters.com and A-writer.com.

Trend#5 A writer and Entrepreneur!

Marketing your work is an essential part of ensuring hype and sales. This goes for whether you’re self-publishing or going with a traditional publisher. You must start blogging about your work, especially as a self-publisher.

Amazon is not going to do it for you, and as part of your marketing effort it’s vital you use every social media method available to get the hype going. If you don’t do this, your work will languish in cyberspace!

Trend#6 Audiobooks are more popular

They still fall under print and e-books, but they are on the rise. Izzard Ink Publishing says that digital audio accounted for 25% of all HarperCollins digital revenue in the first quarter of 2018.

Simon and Schuster says that digital audio revenue shot up a staggering 43%, so something big is happening here. It obviously takes more investment to get this show on the road but offering a print-on-demand book as well as an audio version is a sure-fire winner.

Since Americans seem to be multitasking more in their lives, they will have less time to just read a book. Audiobooks come into their own when they fit in with all the other activities that they are pursuing.

Trend#7 It’s all about the brand

You’d better ensure that you’re fit enough to sell your book. With direct-to-reader becoming the predominant buzzword going into 2019, much of the onus of the marketing will fall to you.

And the marketing will not just be about the book – it will be about you (the author) too! So be prepared to have YouTube inserts, Instagram postings, Facebook and Google+ campaigns… the whole thing. People will follow you, then your book.

If you’re a timid author, you’d better enroll in some get-confidence-quick classes, because you’re going to need it.

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The world of books is huge.  Millions and millions of books sold.  My share of that market is so small as to be somewhere close to zero.  Overall trends in the industry may have impact on publishers, but any one author is doing their thing because of who they are; not based on some trend.  Now there may be some authors who plot their path based on statistics of what sells or whatever the hottest trend is—but that is not me.

Mystery novels have been a staple of the written word ever since there was a written word—that’s not a trend; but a fact. 

As I said, my part of the whole is so small it can’t be measured, but one thing mentioned in the article was the increase in print books and a decline in e-books.  Those are industry wide issues, but I also saw a substantial jump in paperback book sales this last year.  My books are not available (except by order) in book stores (lots of reasons for that –which I will explore in a future blog)—so this is on-line sales of paperbacks.  Those sales in 2019 almost tripled over 2018.  A “real” book is not as convenient as an electronic one—but I was very pleased to see people like the feel of owning a tangible book.

Thanks for being a reader!

Ramblings, Reality and Baseball

Without a doubt, I break creative writing rules. The main reason I break those rules is that I don’t know any better. Rule breaking is often associated with rebellion, but it also can be a result of ignorance. Point of View in a fiction book can be first, second or third person. Most of my books get this whole thing kind of muddled. Mixing POV is a no-no and would result in my writing getting a bad grade from my writing professor. Here’s the key to understanding why I do this, I don’t care.

What is a novel?  It’s a story.  My books tell a story about flawed characters involved in a mystery, usually involving a murder.  Is there a specific book of rules for this storytelling?  Yes, and no.  The objective, however, is clear.  It is to tell the story in a way that communicates to the reader what the author wants communicated.  That sounds to me like there are no rules.

Very smart authors, not saying I’m one of those, often break the “traditional” rules as an expression of independence and creativity.  So if you know the rules and break them deliberately that is okay; but if you just don’t follow the rules because you don’t want to—that’s bad.

You may be wondering why this is on my mind?  It has been suggested by someone who knows the rules that I should try writing from a slightly different approach.  I’ve given it a lot of thought and decided I should just stick with what I’m doing.  The reason is not that this advice is bad; it’s just not me.  My stories have a certain feel and flow.  Maybe a simple style or a simple author?  The most frequent comment I get from readers is that my books are easy to read.  There was a time that for some reason I was not sure that was a good thing.  But I have come to the conclusion that is a very good thing.  I want the reading of my books to be easy and enjoyable—not a challenge and laborious.  So, like my flawed characters, I will just keep doin’ what I’m doin’.

Lots of grumbling in the indie book world about changes Amazon made to emphasize paid ad space on book pages. Those changes have apparently resulted in lower sales for some of the big boys of the indie book market. The sellers of indie books are very susceptible to the whims of Amazon, and how they are completely focused on their profitability –not the authors’ revenue. As it should be. Amazon had a big hand in creating the boom in indie authors and e-books, but they are a web site focused on one thing –their success. If that matches with the authors success, so be it; but they are out for themselves. Why that seems to surprise some authors is beyond me. That is exactly what they should be doing.

During my years advising business people on selling their businesses, there was one model that consistently had buyer interest. It was the reoccurring revenue model where no one customer represented any significant portion of the business. Such as residential garbage collection. Two industries I worked in a lot that had those characteristics were propane and billboards.

Amazon has many of those same characteristics only on a scale never seen before.  Does any single customer mean anything to Amazon?  Of course not.  If you could talk to a human (most likely you can’t) at Amazon to complain about something and threaten to take your business somewhere else, they would say adios.  The collection of all customers matter but not any small number; much less just one.  Same with vendors.  Amazon owns the largest market place on the planet.  If you want your product to be in that market place, you will abide by their rules.  If you don’t; once again—adios.

Many indie authors exist only because of Amazon and many will disappear because of Amazon.  Amazon pays good royalties to authors for e-books; but it could be some day in the future they look at the number of books they have available (a billion, ten billion?) and decide why pay royalties for new books when the supply is too large already.  Good-by indie author.  Remember it’s their web site, and they can do what they want.

Audio books are becoming a larger share of the book market.  A long time ago I decided to get into the audio book segment.  It has not gone according to plan.  I still think will have a Santa Fe Mojo audio book sometime soon (yeah, no reason to believe that).  If not soon, will probably regroup and try again—maybe go with Dog Gone Lies next time. 

Not to be too crass, my goal with my writing is to make some money.  While art for art’s sake may be noble it is not very profitable.  The audio books are a total unknown to me as far as sales and profitability.  If I can see a path to some profits, I will have a lot more audio books available.  If no profits, probably not going down that path. 

I’m a baseball fan.   My team’s the Colorado Rockies.  The current sign stealing scandal is very ugly and before it’s over, will involve some bad things happening to players.  MLB can punish managers and owners, but until they do something to the players, this will not end.

Cheating has always gone on in baseball, even by the pitchers who will claim to be the most harmed in this latest case; but this seems as bad as it gets.  This was a whole team, including managers.  For maybe naïve reasons I was surprised someone had not blown the whistle long before now.

Being a fan of a losing team does have advantages.  Kind of hard to believe the Rockies were cheating, considering the results, unless they are also very bad at cheating.  I think many fans of other teams are not going to give a warm welcome to these cheaters during the season. 

Thanks for being a reader!

My Creative Career

Most of my life has been as a businessman, not a writer.  My first love was art.  Even in college my desire was to be an artist.  I was a creative person who desired a career doing just that—being creative.  Like a lot of people, those first impulses didn’t work out.  I needed to make a living and someone said CPAs made a lot of money—so why not.  It’s only my life we’re talking about.  What could be wrong with being stuck at a desk the rest of your life crunching numbers?  The answer, of course, was a lot.

What does it mean to be creative?  When I was painting, it meant creating an image of something that was unique, or interesting, or appealing or something?  If my painting of a tree looked just like the tree, was that creative?  How about just taking a photo of the tree, was that creative.  I think my art career never happened because I struggled with images that were not unique.  I wanted to paint a tree that didn’t look like a tree, but was the essence of the tree.  Even I didn’t understand what that meant. 

Okay, forget the tree, I will become a creative accountant.  Of course the first unique image that popped into my head was a jail cell for being a too creative accountant —not a good image.  I dropped the creative part and spent a good deal of time just becoming a good accountant.  It’s not as bad as it sounds.  I enjoyed numbers and seemed to have a talent for crunching them.  I achieved a level of success that was rewarding, but not fulfilling.

Prior to becoming an accountant, I had been self-employed in several endeavors.  From food service to retail, I had owned my own businesses.  I had some success and also experienced failure, but during this time I realized I enjoyed business.  It was like a puzzle.  Lots of pieces to move around and try to figure out how they all fit together to generate sales and a profit.  Not every day, but on many it actually felt creative.

Next came my period of working for giant corporations which was not so creative.  Mostly what I learned from that experience was lots of nuts and bolts accounting and that most top executives were assholes.  Maybe that MBA stood for something else?  Most of the successful people I met had one thing in common, they were bullies.  There were, of course, exceptions but by far the most practiced management style was intimidation.  The age I’m talking about was total alpha male domination, so that might have been the reason; but being kind, considerate, thoughtful or even deceit were traits honored at home and abandoned at work.  The world is still full of those people; be very cautious.

After the big company nonsense, I found much greater joy and success working for myself and several smaller companies.  The biggest difference, other than the people seemed more human, was the appreciation of creativity.  Innovation is the life-blood of smaller businesses.  I’ve always been an idea-guy and eager to share opinions.  My biggest business successes were with companies that appreciated the innovation and my willingness to try new ideas.  At this point in my life I had the right combination of experience, knowledge and guts to try things others wouldn’t—it failed on occasion and succeeded every once in a while.  In many ways I had solved the business puzzle.

Now, I write fiction books.  Writing is obviously creative—I’m making stuff up; can’t get much more creative than that.  I enjoy the process of thinking about the story, the characters and devising the plot twists with subtle hints.  But what is not fun; is the business of writing.  As an indie author I have complete control over every aspect of what I do.  Or said another way, I have almost no help in doing what I do.  This is not the writing part, have lots of help with editors and designers; this is the business side.  Selling the books, planning marketing, making a profit. 

You would think with my business background this would be a snap.  It’s not.  The main reason is that it is very limited.  There are some variables, but mostly the decisions are; do you go exclusive with Amazon or more broadly with a few others?  Do you sell your books at x or 2x?  Do you have free books?  Do you advertise on Amazon, Bookbub, Facebook or others?

I’ve been doing this for years now; and I’ve tried most everything at least once.  None of it works really well.  Ads are expensive and the return is questionable.  Free books generate interest, but it is hard to make much money from free.  You can go wide and thumb your nose at Amazon, but probably it costs you sales; still tempting.  So-called experts, usually selling something, say develop your brand; establish your presence on social media—no doubt it helps, but only a little.  Most people advising indie authors are making a lot more money than the indie authors.  The real advice might be find a market niche full of desperate people and sell than advice like “try harder.”

It is a new year and time to stop whining and do something different.  Be creative.  Be innovative.  Okay, I’m willing; but not sure what that is?

I’m afraid the indie author phenomena powered by e-books and Amazon has created a creative glut of decent books that nobody knows about.  Maybe even great books that go unread; because there are literally tons of books available and not enough time to read a small fraction of that quantity.   

Maybe it’s time to pull out the paint and brushes and create a tree that looks just like a tree but isn’t and suffer in silence.

Plan B-Billionaire Special

This original art is for sell for $7,500,000.  I’m going with the concept of only needing one really rich dumb ass and life will be great.  It’s a very creative concept!

Thanks for being a reader!

2019 Best Sellers

The highest selling book in 2019 was Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.  Since its release in 2018, this book has sold millions.  #1 best seller.  As an indie author I can’t even imagine that kind of success; I work mostly in the thousands territory not millions. 

On Amazon it has 30,000 reader reviews with an average rating of 4.8—this book is loved.  There is no question the majority of reviews are excellent; but there are a lot of reviews (300 or more) by people who hate the book.  These are people who knew the story, knew the rave reviews and paid a substantial sum to purchase the book (no free book days for this baby) and yet, they hated it.

A couple of actual reviews:

1.0 out of 5 stars Too unrealistic to enjoy

I was very disappointed in this book after reading all the hype about it. While the reading is good, the story is so nonsensical- a 6 year old left alone in a shack raises herself, living in the same shack, using the same boat, and no one lifts a hand to help her? In more than 20 years, the boat never breaks down, the house doesn’t need repairs and she’s able to wear the same clothes for many years….she’s got long hair that she says is ratty and tangled but description s of it has it down her back, luxurious…she’s gorgeous but bathing is optional until in her 20s…she has sex with a philanderer but never gets a vd and not once apparently does she get sick. No flu, cold, nothing….she never got shots and apparently has the immune system of a super hero because she stepped on a nail and never got tetanus….I kept reading so I’d finish and the ending is unexpected but it’s generally a boring book where day after day, she’s alone in the marsh….

1.0 out of 5 stars Did I read the same book as others?

Format: Hardcover Verified

About half this book was good. Beautifully written at times, and with an interesting, plausible story. But wait…the gaps …Maybe less time talking about Kya fumbling around with sex with Chase and more time on her development as a renowned author and painter would have been nice. There’s more, but you may be reading the book. I must comment though on the most ridiculous court room antics since Curly’s trial in a Three Stooges short. Oh, I think I just did. (And just after reading a book on Harper Lee – if you know what I mean). This was one of the most disappointing books I have read in quite a long time. Sorry Ms. Witherspoon. Can I get my money back if I return the book?

1,665 people found this helpful

It seems to me that books that sell a ton are often hyped by famous people.  In this book’s case, Reese Witherspoon was a strong force in promoting this book.  Nothing wrong with that—would love to have Witherspoon talking about my books (unless it was bad).  And the other factor is that it is published by one of the major publishing companies.  My point is not that the book, the author and publisher don’t deserve their success—they do; it is that even the most successful, beloved book of the year is hated by hundreds of readers.

Reviews are opinions.  So why is it surprising that some number of readers don’t like a book—it isn’t.  Most of my bad reviews are for language.  Some readers are offended by language and seem to feel a need to warn others of the offensive words.  Crawdads uses some of those same words, but the bad reviews are more focused on the story and not the language.  A relatively small number of reviews as a percentage are bad but many, many people found those reviews helpful.  I know when I’m buying a new leaf blower the reviews I read first are the bad ones—tell me what went wrong!  Guess it’s the same with books –give me the bad stuff and I will avoid this by most accounts great book?

Reader reviews are a sore point with me.  I think I take them too personally; but it is hard not to.  As part of my new year “I will be better program,” I have promised myself I will not read the bad reviews of my books.  Of course I know I will not keep that resolution for more than a few weeks, and I will be back reading the reviews with a strange focus on the bad ones.

In case you were wondering below is the list of the twenty top selling books for 2019 and the number sold. 

  1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens—907,192
  2. Becoming by Michelle Obama—888,611
  3. Dog Man: Brawl of the Wild by Dav Pilkey—524,849
  4. Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis—505,809
  5. Diary of An Awesome Friendly Kid by Jeff Kinney—493,154
  6. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis—490,019
  7. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss—483,478
  8. Educated by Tara Westover—454,989
  9. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris—365,246
  10. The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith—272,182
  11. Unfreedom of the Press by Mark R. Levin—267,751
  12. Howard Stern Comes Again by Howard Stern—265,295
  13. You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero—250,048
  14. The Mueller Report by the Washington Post—243,007
  15. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss—237,239
  16. Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath—235,821
  17. It’s Not Supposed to To Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst—232,932
  18. The Meltdown by Jeff Kinney—231,149
  19. The Woman In the Window by A. J. Finn—230,098
  20. The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo—229,730
Thanks for being a reader!
My Best Seller!

The Allure of Power

This is not a political blog—it’s about writing, fictional books and other stuff.  But I guess politics could be in “other stuff.”  A definition of politics, “the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.” 

Rather than sink to the depths of turning this blog into a political battle, maybe I should just talk about power.  The need for power is everywhere.  What does that mean.  Is power money, dominance over others, sex or something else.  Most of my writing centers on the abuses of power.  Murder would be the ultimate power grab—taking a life is the gravest abuse of power.  But also I have written about political power, law enforcement power, personal power over another and the more benign power of friendship. 

Why do humans seek this power?  The answer in my books is mostly due to money and sex.  That focus emphasizes power as strength or dominance.  Controlling someone else or a group is power.  The money and sex part may be just about measuring where you rank.  With that in mind, power is achieving the highest rank or status.  I’m King and I have the most power; therefore, I’m the best, the most important.  Okay there is some logic in that, and we sure can see the pattern that plays out in history and in our current politics; being a winner is achieving the highest level of status.  But what does that get you?  Money?  Sure.  Sex?  No doubt.  It still seems odd to me that while that may be enough to fight so hard for; it doesn’t really answer the question of why do humans seek power.

When I’m writing I spend a great deal of time trying to understand the motivations of my characters.  The main characters often fit the most obvious patterns of power seekers.  They often are flawed people trying to achieve a level of success to offset a history of failure.  They seek power as a way to achieve self-esteem.  I must be a good person I have all of this power.  Usually they are flawed because that is probably the wrong goal.  Power does not make you a good person.

The characters that I find the most interesting are often the secondary characters.  Seldom do they have power.  They live in the shadows but provide important support to the power seeker.  But why are they not power seekers.  I have struggled with that contradiction.  The human condition seems to be trying to achieve the highest status; but not everyone does that, why?

Politics by its definition is about power.  Power, or at least the acquisition of that power, seems to allow people of all stripes to decide that the means of obtaining and keeping power is justified by some sort of desired outcome.  Sure I can be dishonest, mean, deceptive but once I start to govern you will see the benefit of all of my shenanigans. 

Those secondary, support characters don’t seem to believe that the ends justify the means.  Most of my secondary characters have a more centered moral position.  They may (and often are) not the best people, but they seem to know who they are and have their own set of values.  It has often occurred to me as I’m writing that the strongest characters in my books are not the main ones but the minor, support characters. 

From this self-analysis I have concluded that the weakest people are the ones who need the most power.  Stronger individuals can forgo power because they have something else—self-confidence.  That is obviously a generalized statement; and, of course, it is about my fictional characters, so maybe it is just hooey.  Maybe?

Back to politics.  Would that mean the most aggressive, self-assured politicians seeking power are the weakest members of our society?  Does power attract the neediest?

When I was in college—oh so long ago; I was involved in a Philosophy class project where we decided what would be the best form of government.  Lots of silly discussions.  One of the smartest people in the room proposed that leadership of government should not be in the hands of one person; such as a President, but rather should be a tribunal.  Three leaders with one up for election every two years.  One of the reasons for this structure was to attract the best, most civic minded among us.  Whereas our current system of one President attracts the neediest.  Because that structure attracts the power seekers.

In history we can see that power seekers have been our political leaders, religious leaders, kings, Presidents, Generals, scolds, tyrants—all seeking something for themselves while promising everything for others.  In most cases the promise for others was never very believable; but we consistently fall for the con—because we want to believe.  Someday, I’m sure, we will realize that choosing the strongest, loudest, most confident, best looking individuals to lead results in picking the weakest, most incompetent leaders.  By contrast we should choose the most thoughtful, generous, intelligent, humble people as our leaders.  But would anyone with those qualities want to be a leader?

Thanks for being a reader!

Lifetime supply of books?

Books have been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember.  They have inspired, entertained and taught me many things about the world and myself.  In my youth, books competed with movies and the very limited television as entertainment; but had no equal when it came to education and self-fulfillment.  Today is an entirely different world.

Yesterday my internet was out for hours, some kind of Comcast problem that was eventually, mysteriously resolved.  That disruption created a sense of being disconnected from the mother ship.  How do we access the thousands of movies and TV shows streaming away as we sit idle?  There are literally more entertainment and educational options available than anyone could possibly watch.  If that is the case, will there be a point in the future when there is no need for anything new.  Of course new will always be alluring, but the reality is, without additional time, the need for new might just go away.

So we have a lifetime supply of books, movies, and TV shows to keep us entertained; why try the new author who may or may not be entertaining, or educational, or even good.  Why risk that time on something that is not known?  I don’t know the answer to that question.

Even now it is hard to break through the clutter.  I read there are something like 2,000 to 4,000 new books published on Amazon every day.  Many of those books are indie books that sell very few copies.  Currently there are almost 50 million books on amazon available for purchase and the number is growing.  Only a very small percentage of these books sell 500 copies.  But that glut of books creates a maze of confusion that complicates the ability to reach readers—so many books so little time.

Due to this problem the free book marketing web sites came into existence.  Bookbub, Freebooksy, Fussy Librarian and many, many more.  These sites advertise to their members/followers for a fee from the authors the availability of free books or heavily discounted books.   They exist because of the thousands and thousands of independent authors who are the majority of their customers who are looking for new readers.  I use these sites to give away free e-books because it works, sort of.  A newly released book gets a lot of attention and will result in follow up sales of the free book and other books by the author—but it is short lived.  So you spend money to advertise your book to an audience that mostly wants free books in hope of what exactly?  That you give away tons of books?  That those free book seekers will actually spend real money and buy your other books?  Yeah, I’m not sure of the reasoning either; but I do it.

Should a reader not accept free books because that does not provide support to the author?  Of course not.  If the author is stupid enough (or wise enough?) to offer free books, the reader should lap them up.  But what is the commitment to a free book?  Nothing?  If you read the first ten pages of the free book and it doesn’t hit you right, would you continue or just move on to the next free book on your device?  If you had paid $25 for a hardback book, you’re going to give that book every chance, not just a glance.

What this comes down to, is I have no idea how to reach readers who might enjoy my books; other than free books or very expensive Amazon advertising.  But even that approach has limited success in the overcrowded book aisle at Amazon. 

Another approach that works great, but I have no control over, is reader recommendation.  This can be on-line reviews or word-of-mouth.  Readers trust other readers not to steer them wrong, and that boosts sales.  But that is about the first reader liking the book; and that hinges on writing.

Okay, everyone knows this; the best way to have success writing books is to write good books.  Amazing revelation! 

I recently revised the Muckraker books; Murder So Wrong, Murder So Strange and Murder So Final.  Why?  To make them better and to make them more readable.  This can be a painful process for a writer to be critical of one of your masterpieces.  My co-author, Stanley Nelson, was helpful in that regard, occasionally a little too helpful.  We did accomplish our goal—I think the books are better and, hopefully, the reader will agree. 

The promotion for the re-introduction of these books will include, of course, free book days on Amazon.  The Murder So Wrong e-book will be free for download on December 10th, 17th, 21st and January 24th.  If you haven’t read these books give them a try—after all the first one is free.

Thanks for being a reader!